No. 14 Women's Cross Country preview: Big 12 Championships
Oct. 26, 2012
The Texas Cross Country programs return home to Austin this weekend for the Big 12 Championships on Saturday at Jimmy Clay Golf Course. The Longhorns will play host to the conference meet for the second time, last hosting the event in 2003. The women's 6,000-meter race is scheduled for 10 a.m. Central while the men's 8,000-meter will take place at 11 a.m. Admission will be free to the public.
"Last year we got second in the conference and this year we're going in to the conference meet as the second-ranked team in the conference," Texas cross country coach Steve Sisson said. "I think we have our hands full with the teams that we're racing but I know that with our group - from start to finish, from the top girls all the way to the six or seven spot - that we have a very strong team and we have a chance to win the championship."
Competing for No. 14 Texas will be seniors Laleh Mojtabaeezamani and Anne Jones; juniors Marielle Hall, Sara Sutherland, Megan Siebert, Jessica Harper and Brittany Marches; sophomore Jenna Read and freshmen Kendall Howen and Claire Andrews.
"I feel mostly excitement at this point," Sutherland said. "It's a really exciting part of the season. It's just especially cool that we're getting to do this and show the city of Austin and The University of Texas community what we're all about at this point. The team looks great. Excitement sums it up."
Last time out, UT earned a fifth-place team finish with 184 points at the Pre-Nationals Invitational. The 39-team field featured eight nationally-ranked teams, four of them in the USTFCCCA top-10. Sutherland recorded a ninth-place finish (20:10.7) to pace the Longhorns on the same 6K course as will be used for the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships in November.
The Longhorns continue their 2012 campaign building off a solid 2011. After opening last season with three team victories, including two in which Texas recorded a perfect score of 15, UT earned its highest national ranking (14th) in more than a decade following an impressive fifth-place performance at the Pre-Nationals meet. At the 2011 Big 12 Championships, the Longhorns placed second with Hall and Sutherland each earning all-league honors. Texas also placed second at the 2011 South Central Regional Championships to earn automatic qualification for the NCAA Championships. All five UT scorers, including four 2012 returnees, finished in the top-25 to earn USTFCCCA All-South Central Region honors.
Under the guidance of seventh-year coach Steve Sisson, Texas has qualified for the NCAA Championships in each of the last two seasons, having earned a team spot in 2010 for the first time in seven years. The Longhorns return five of seven members from the 2011 NCAA Championships squad (Mojtabaeezamani, Sutherland, Siebert, Hall and Marches) with Siebert, Hall, Sutherland and Mojtabaeezamani also having competed for Texas at NCAAs in 2010.
In addition to its strong returnee group, Texas also adds significant depth to the roster with a 10-member freshmen class that has already made an impact in the 2012 preseason. Howen and Andrews will look to continue that trend at this weekend's meet.
Saturday's meet commences the championships portion of the Longhorns' 2012 campaign. Texas will train for two weeks before traveling to Fayetteville, Ark., on Nov. 9 for the NCAA South Central Regional Championships. Hosted by the University of Arkansas, the meet will be held at Agri Park with the top two teams on both the men's and women's sides qualifying for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17. The women's 6K race is schedule for 11:00 a.m. Central while the men's 8K will follow at 12:15 p.m.